Speed and Coordination (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 14:12Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (0049) Opening Music Dave plays some great introductory music in the key of Em. Get your guitar tuned and ready for another great lesson!
Chapter 2: (00:27) Lesson Introduction This lesson primarily deals with picking hand technique. If you are a left-handed player, simply apply the information presented in this lesson to your left hand. Dave will discuss fundamental technical issues such as the proper way to hold a pick. He will also demonstrate several basic exercises that are designed to improve your picking speed and coordination.
Chapter 3: (09:00) Basic Picking Exercises A. Choosing a Pick

Playing aggressive rock and roll requires that you use a relatively thick pick. A light pick creates a thin tone when playing aggressive material with the right hand. Also, many rock players have a higher tendency to drop or lose control of a thin pick. Thin, flexible picks such as the Dunlop Nylon series, are ideal for light strumming. Due to their material, these picks are ideal for playing crossover genre material on a nylon string guitar.

Dave Mackenzie uses a purple Dunlop Tortex pick in this lesson. The thickness of this particular pick is 1.14 mm. These picks are quite popular amongst rock players. James Hetfield from Metallica prefers the green Dunlop Tortex pick (.88mm). Jamplay instructor Matt Brown prefers to use white Fender Medium picks. These picks are about the thinnest picks you can get away with when playing rock guitar. Experiment with a variety of different picks until you find the right one for you.

B. Holding the Pick

There are several different ways to hold a pick. The traditional way involves clasping the pick between the thumb and index finger. Some players grip the pick between the side of the index finger and the pad of the thumb. Many guitarists choose to hold the pick between the pads of the thumb and index finger. Dave holds the pick in this way.

Many rock players choose to hold the pick with the pad of the thumb and the pads of both the index and middle fingers. James Hetfield and Krist Novoselic are two of the most famous advocates of this technique. They think that the pick feels more secure in their hands when holding it in this manner. Watch some live performances of both musicians to observe their picking technique.

Eddie Van Halen holds the pick between his thumb and middle finger. This leaves the first finger free to perform tapping licks.

If you are just starting out, we recommend that you hold the pick in the first way described. The vast majority of guitarists prefer this method.

Regardless of which fingers you hold the pick with, you must choke up on the pick so that only a small portion sticks out from the thumb and index finger. Dave demonstrates how to do this at the beginning of this scene. Choking up on the pick makes techniques such as tremolo picking and pinch harmonics much easier to perform. Holding the pick in this way also usually results in a slightly louder tone. Players that use jazz style picks do not need to follow this rule. These picks are shaped smaller to begin with.

Overall Body Posture

Every muscle group in your body affects the way you play the guitar. Apply the following posture rules at all times.

1. The feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Do not cross your legs or ankles! It is acceptable for right-handed players to move the left foot forward in their stance. (Lefties may bring the right foot forward.) This creates a slightly larger base. This may or may not improve your overall balance when playing in a standing position.
2. Always wear a strap regardless of whether you are sitting down or standing up. Notice how high Dave's neck is raised. Adjust your own strap to this height. This particular rule does not apply to classical guitarists. However, classical players must always use a footstool or suction cup device. These items essentially do the work that a strap does on a steel or bronze string guitar.
3. Sit up straight! Do not lean back in your chair. Your butt is the only part of your body that should make contact with the chair or stool.
4. Relax the shoulders. Many players slightly shrug their shoulders. This causes unnecessary tension that quickly spreads to the forearms, wrists, and fingers.

Right Hand Fingers

The right hand fingers that are not used to hold the pick should be lightly tucked into the palm. Many players prefer to fan out their right hand fingers. This is acceptable. However, you run the risk of accidentally bumping a string with one of these fingers. Regardless, you should NEVER plant a right hand finger anywhere on the body of the guitar. Many professional players of the highest quality play with the pinky finger anchored to the bridge pickup. However, their technique would be even better if they eliminated this bad habit from their playing. Anchor your right hand to the guitar by lightly resting it on the bridge.

Basic Picking Exercise 1

Note: Open "Exercise 1" under the "Supplemental Content" tab for tablature/directions to this exercise.

Dave demonstrates a basic exercise to get you started on developing solid picking technique. It is always best to perform basic picking exercises with open strings. This completely eliminates the left hand from the equation, and allows you to focus only on your picking hand.

Set your metronome or drum machine to a slow tempo. Play eight sequential donwstrokes on the open high E string. Then, perform eight sequential upstrokes on the same string. Make sure that the tone and volume of your upstrokes is identical to your upstrokes. The same technique is used to play upstrokes and downstrokes. Simply change the direction of your pick.

Due to the muscle structure in the wrists and hands, it is much easier to play rapid sequential upstrokes than downstrokes. Spend extra time practicing downstrokes to compensate for this weakness. Begin to practice scale patterns starting with an upstroke then apply alternate picking. This will put upstrokes on all the strong beats, and shift the downstrokes to the weaker beats.

Exercise 2

Note: Open "Exercise 2" under the "Supplemental Content" tab for tablature/directions to this exercise.

Now, use strict alternate picking on the open high E string. Set your metronome to a steady quarter note tempo. Then, practice playing eighth notes, sixteenths, and triplets at this tempo. Every other time you practice the exercise, begin the alternate picking pattern with an upstroke. Practice this exercise on each open string.

Exercise 3

Note: Open "Exercise 3" under the "Supplemental Content" tab for tablature/directions to this exercise.

This exercise is designed to increase synchronization and coordination of both hands. A note should be fretted with the left hand a few milliseconds before the right hand picks the string. Play this exercise VERY slowly to begin with. Use strict alternate picking. Make sure each note rings into the next. Then, gradually increase the tempo of your metronome.

Note: Master all of the exercises presented in this scene before you proceed to practice Exercise 4.
Chapter 4: (02:28) Exercise on Two Strings Note: Open "Exercise 4" under the "Supplemental Content" tab for tablature/directions to this exercise.

This cool riff/lick makes an excellent picking exercise. It is very important to master string crossings in the context of alternate picking.
Chapter 5: (01:32) Final Thoughts Stay disciplined when practicing these exercises. Play each of them everyday as part of your warm-up routine. Developing speed and endurance is often compared to physical training for a sport. If you are not consistent with your practice, you will not improve. Try not to take more than one day off a week from technical practice.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Supplemental Learning Material



Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

guloguloguyguloguloguy replied

When practicing to train the ears, mind, and hand to carefully adhere to the metronome tempo, are there some VERY COMMONLY USED standard tempos (or ranges of tempo), used in lots of music, that we ought to use as our "target" speeds? (i.e. 90 - 120 bpm,)

Jason.MounceJason.Mounce replied

This is more genre dependent, but yes, specific genre's and related sub-genre's do typically have a common range of tempos associated with them. Your classic rock genre tends to live in the 100-130 range, while things like sludge metal are sub 100 and punk rock can be up towards 160bpm or higher. What I would recommend is to play some of your favorite songs and use a tap tempo to see where they are landing. Then you can use that as a gauge for where you might want to target. Be careful though because you don't want to get into a comfort zone where you can only play at 120bpm for example. You should work to be comfortable playing at any tempo reasonably necessary, from slow to fast.

rsmith1068rsmith1068 replied

Hi Dave, my question is, do you kind of anchor your right wrist on the guitar? I have heard both to do it and not to do it. What do you suggest? Thanks

the_ANTIDRUGthe_ANTIDRUG replied

Good instructor; good approch to guitar and students

the_ANTIDRUGthe_ANTIDRUG replied

Good instructor; good approch to guitar and students

johnnyrockitjohnnyrockit replied

I have a need for speed thanks for this David!

evilmpevilmp replied

Dave what is a good way to learn the gallop or riding the 6th string for example like the old style George Lynch song Mr. Scarey? Any suggestions?

seanmullarkeyseanmullarkey replied

Yeah,just saying my name is Chris even though it says my dads name.And uh, like your lessons. ROCK ON!!!!!!!

alexmarblekingalexmarbleking replied

can any one help me with pick on string between the high and low e string?

viallivialli replied

A simple lesson but very well delivered. Shows up all sort of faults in technique as it gets faster, especially going from pinky down for me! And some great tips - never heard of the bounce technique before.

tammy7689tammy7689 replied

i hope this isnt a dumb question but i want to be sure im doin it correctly..on the 8th notes when im using a metronome i go down on the beat and up on the offbeat? or do i do down and up on each beat?..i hope you understand my question..ty

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

thats correct. down on the beat, up on the and. think one=down,and=up. once that becomes boring challenge your self to do it backward, meaning:one=up, and=down. do that on the 1st or second strings. just for something different. stretch your mind out.

moonchildmoonchild replied

haha cool. i use a dunlop tortex too! black 1.0

gerthinogerthino replied

Good lesson, been playing for some time now and still have difficulties assessing the space between the strings when not looking...will work more now on alternate picking between 2 strings.

ssomervillessomerville replied

Great lesson Dave! I love the short and sweet lessons. Doesn't overload me. And gives me a sense of quicker accomplishment.

ozzystarrozzystarr replied

that is the same guitar that the late great RANDY RHOADS of the Ozzy Osbourne band fame used. undoubetly the best classical metal guitarist ever to live. god rest his soul . died in a plane crash at the young age of 25. r.i.p rr 4ever

ge08ge08 replied

I liked this lesson, it made me see a lot of my weaknesses that I need to work on with alternate picking.

sbartonsbarton replied

The only way I can get any sort of speed is to let the pick slide at like a 45 degree angle across the string. Picking straight down parallel seems almost impossible for anything faster than a quarter note 4/4. I'm wondering if angling is the proper technique.

deadlystandeadlystan replied

Great lesson, thanks. Had a lot of fun messing around with these notes. :D

sbartonsbarton replied

So I think the problem was I was holding the pick too much with the flat side of my index finger and it didn't have enough flexibility.

markokmarkok replied

Dave, can you explain a little more on the Eric Johnson's "bounce" technique?

CarolLBCarolLB replied

Exercise 4 is great. If you start at the 2nd 3rd, and 5th fret, then take it further up the neck, like say the 7th, 8th, and 10th fret, and bring it back down to the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th fret, it sounds great!

edenajbedenajb replied

Hey Dave!, How are you?. I am a new member and i love that intro song for this lesson. I recognise it, what song is it?. Would you be able to upload tabs for it or is it up somewhere already?. i just don't know how to find it at the moment.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

actually, i was just goofing around and improvising some things. if it is a tune, i dont know which one it is? i could have easily locked the riff away in my lil brain after hearing it somewhere, and then accidently spilled it out for this lesson unknowingly! lol!

el mofongoel mofongo replied

My pick always tangles and stumbles. Down and up is not a smooth transition.

eickeick replied

Hay dave ive been thinking about picking up a new guitar and was woundering what you rilly like about the jacksons. ive been rilly jumping back and forth over jackson and gibson.

christopher powerschristopher powers replied

I've enjoyed your lessons very much Dave, but these kinds of exercises are by far my favorite. I love getting it cranked up. I thought I would mention, that I like to mix the tempo up...going from quarter notes to eighth notes and back to quarter notes. I found it improves the fret-hand as well as the pick-hand. Sorry, maybe I'm jumping ahead. Keep on rocking!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

not at all christopher! thank you for the comment! thats great your doing that too. you have to open up and try all kinds of stuff, like tempo change. good move!!! good thinking!!! rock on!!

kutlesskutless replied

Hey Dave, I'm enjoying the lessons. I've alaways had problems with increasing my speed. Does changing the pick angle help that much or should I be able to get faster with time and practice if I dont change the angle of the pick and keep it paralell to the string? No matter how I try it always seems to get jerky and out of time as I increase the speed.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

hey, even the best players have to practice pick coordination and making the pick speed up. you have to kind of play with it and see what works for you the best. the lower arm should'nt be moving a whole lot, so make sure you are steady there. mostly wrist action with a little bit of lower arm movement. hope that helps!

traviethrashbuddytraviethrashbuddy replied

WHat A beautiful Guitar!!!!!

pjrobertspjroberts replied

Yeah, I agree with mcoffelt and vaultboy on the erc johnson bounce picking. I think I know how to do this, and do something similar sometimes just fooling around (some interesting texture), but I couldn't see exactly what you were doing. Note to camera guy (the director): in cases like this, it would be very helpful to have some close ups of the right hand. The same goes for the left hand when demonstrating different chords. I agree tho, I thought this lesson would be all old stuff for me, but I picked up some good techniques, and some more "workouts".

vaultboy21vaultboy21 replied

Yes, can you clarify more the Eric Johnson's "bounce" ?

rj surfsrj surfs replied

I thought this was a pretty easy lesson until I got the metronome out! I have some practicing to do. Great lesson Dave!

marie115marie115 replied

Great lesson! Can you go into more detain on how to do Eric Johnson's "bounce" technique?

nasty jnasty j replied

Excellent exercises for technical playing, its really helping me go from string to the other, and picking much faster. Thanks

ksengage89ksengage89 replied

this lesson showed me a lot. i can play alot of songs, at least the rythem parts, but know my tech. is wrong this lesson here showed me a new exerzize to help me figure lead out better thanks

kevinengle2000kevinengle2000 replied

this is a great lesson verry helpful thanks

slashhetfieldcobainslashhetfieldcobain replied

sounds like paint it black

sulossulos replied

great lesson, I have always had a problem getting the distance between the strings and I know this will help alot.

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In his Phase 1 series, David MacKenzie will walk you through the basics of rock guitar.

About the GuitarLesson 1

About the Guitar

David discusses the parts of the guitar. He also gives you some basic techniques to get you started.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Power ChordsLesson 2

Power Chords

In this lesson, David introduces basic power chords. Great fun for beginners!

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Basic Chord ProgressionsLesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Notes, Chords and ArpeggiosLesson 4

Notes, Chords and Arpeggios

David provides a brief explanation of what notes, chords, power chords, and arpeggios are.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Speed and CoordinationLesson 5

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Chord ExercisesLesson 6

Chord Exercises

David MacKenzie presents a mysterious sounding chord exercise. This exerices is designed to improve right hand technique.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Practice and DisciplineLesson 7

Practice and Discipline

In this short lesson David talks about practice, discipline, and how you should apply yourself when learning and mastering the guitar.

Length: 6:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Double StopsLesson 8

Double Stops

Double stops can bring new life to your rhythm and lead playing. David provides a short tutorial on what double stops are and how they can be used.

Length: 7:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Major ChordsLesson 9

The Major Chords

David covers the basic major chord shapes. Every guitarist must learn these basic chords.

Length: 18:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Minor ChordsLesson 10

The Minor Chords

David MacKenzie walks you through the basic minor chords. Expand your knowledge of chords with this fun-filled lesson.

Length: 8:15 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major ScalesLesson 11

Major Scales

Major scales are an essential component of all styles of music. They can also be used as a great way to orient yourself with the fretboard.

Length: 32:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major Scale JamLesson 12

Major Scale Jam

David MacKenzie explains how to practice the major scales along with a fun backing track.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Minor ScalesLesson 13

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales.

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Minor Scale JamLesson 14

Minor Scale Jam

David MacKenzie shows you how to play the natural minor scale over a rockin' JamTrack.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
One String ExerciseLesson 15

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 16:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Hammer-Ons and Pull-OffsLesson 16

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are techniques that enable you to play with a smooth, legato feel.

Length: 8:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Basic BendsLesson 17

Basic Bends

David MacKenzie gives a crash course on bending in this lesson. Bends can add a lot of soul to your playing.

Length: 16:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool Rock LicksLesson 18

Cool Rock Licks

David MacKenzie teaches two rock licks inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen and Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

Length: 12:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Hammer-On ExerciseLesson 19

Hammer-On Exercise

David returns to the world of hammer-ons with a fun new exercise. This lesson includes a JamTrack.

Length: 13:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Return to Pull-OffsLesson 20

Return to Pull-Offs

David returns to the world of pull-offs with a new exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 12:50 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Practicing BendsLesson 21

Practicing Bends

David MacKenzie returns to bending technique in this lesson. This lesson features a backing track that is designed for bending practice.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Basic VibratoLesson 22

Basic Vibrato

Integrating vibrato into your guitar playing is a great way to add emotion and soul. David MacKenzie explains the basics of vibrato in this lesson.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Pentatonic ScaleLesson 23

Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 24

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Full Major ScaleLesson 25

Full Major Scale

David MacKenzie explains a two octave pattern of the major scale.

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Full Minor ScaleLesson 26

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Length: 12:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Full Major Pentatonic ScaleLesson 27

Full Major Pentatonic Scale

David teaches a two octave pattern of the major pentatonic scale.

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Full Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 28

Full Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie teaches a two octave version of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool LickLesson 29

Cool Lick

David MacKenzie teaches several licks based on common arpeggio patterns. This lesson also includes a backing track to jam with.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rhythm BasicsLesson 30

Rhythm Basics

David MacKenzie introduces some important rhythm basics in this lesson. This lesson also includes a backing track exercise.

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Power Chord VariationsLesson 31

Power Chord Variations

David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Length: 18:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool Lick ExerciseLesson 32

Cool Lick Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces some new amazing licks.

Length: 29:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Tapping ExerciseLesson 33

Tapping Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces the tapping technique and teaches a fun exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 22:44 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Tapping Exercise #2Lesson 34

Tapping Exercise #2

David MacKenzie teaches another amazing tapping exercise.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Tapping #3:  Adding Open StringsLesson 35

Tapping #3: Adding Open Strings

The third tapping lesson elaborates on the previous lesson by adding open strings.

Length: 12:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Tapping #4:  Diminished Lick Lesson 36

Tapping #4: Diminished Lick

The fourth lesson in Dave's tapping series deals with a monster diminished lick.

Length: 11:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Tapping #5Lesson 37

Tapping #5

In lesson five of his tapping mini-series, DMac provides backing tracks that you can tap over.

Length: 8:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Tremolo TechniqueLesson 38

Tremolo Technique

In lesson 38, DMac demonstrates some tremolo techniques to add to your repertoire.

Length: 13:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Tapping #6Lesson 39

Tapping #6

DMac returns to his tapping instruction with more advanced techniques.

Length: 19:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Chord StructuresLesson 40

Chord Structures

In lesson 40, DMac teaches you how to play various D chords all the way up the neck.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
OctavesLesson 41


In lesson 41, David discusses the octave and its uses while playing.

Length: 17:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
David MacKenzie

About David MacKenzie View Full Biography Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!

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Mike H.

"I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar!"

I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on JamPlay.com. Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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